Until now, my coworkers in every job I’ve held have been of a similar age to me. There was that quaint ice cream shop where my boss regularly proclaimed that she was the mother of “16 sixteen-year-olds.” (And weren’t we ever the hormonal group.) There was that fine dining restaurant that harbored college almost-grads like me who came for the romanticism of the job and stayed for the free family meal before each nighttime service. (We had it figured out.) And there was that post-college trap called Whole Foods where every other employee was a recent college grad who “didn’t know what else to do.” And on and on.
That is, until now— where I find myself surrounded by people who are two, three, or four decades my senior, all of them incredibly skilled from many, many years in the industry. But it’s the first time I’ve really been challenged to see how my generation’s approach is vastly different from any other generation’s (aside from the technologic support I’ve lent to a few clueless kin ;).
One of my older colleagues loves pushing me introduce myself to people–“She moved to NEW YORK where she worked for the FOOD NETWORK. She has a FOOD BLOG and worked at WHOLE FOODS.” Can’t you just hear her sing-songy voice, half showing me off, half mocking my, I don’t know–generational gumption?
Recently, I was in a meeting with six women who all have 30+ years experience in the grocery industry. We were planning a store opening party. “Ruthie,” said that day’s VIP directedly, “there’s going to be a TV at the event on which we can run a slideshow, or a video, or something eye-catching. I want you to figure out what that will be.” What? WHAT? I work in specialty food retail, and now, just because I’m the only person in my 20’s in a room, I’m automatically in charge of anything tech-focused? It’s not an insult, but it’s certainly a risk assuming I’m the right person for a task based on my age.
In another instance, I was guiding a group home from a company dinner using my iPhone for directions. One of my bosses was also calculating the way based on physical landmarks, and he literally scoffed at my electronic ways. “Pffft. Millennials.”
I love that my colleagues find the way I approach life interesting enough to comment on, but at the same time I feel odd that it’s always brought up in a somewhat joking way. Tell me, folks born earlier than the 1980’s, is it that you think us young ‘uns aren’t equipped to survive as well as you because of our reliance on technology? Are you laughing because you’re jealous? Would YOU never have walked 12 miles to enjoy a donut with exotic flavor combinations and later display it for the whole world to see? Maybe not. (Though I highly recommend it if you get the chance.) And yeah, your Boy Scout survival skills are probably way more in tact than mine. Though I do know how to start a fire with flint and magnesium. Just saying.
But let me make it known: I love being a millennial. I’m grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to travel and get crazy internships and live in far away places and write about those experiences online for my friends and family to see. I love that I can take photos of food I have a genuine passion for and share a business’s success via social media. It’s awesome to be a part of generation that kicks butt at finding off-beat jobs that make us happy and doesn’t feel a need to seek out stable, corporate America. We’re really a pretty smart bunch, in my opinion. (Minus all the selfies we take. But even this is art.)
Remember, oh my superiors, if you didn’t raise us, you raised the kids who did.
Also remember, this is the only way we’ve ever known.
Mock away at our wonton ways.
I can always talk to you about your disco later.